Sanders Calls on Congress to Strengthen & Expand Social Security

WASHINGTON, March 12 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, today announced historic legislation to both expand Social Security benefits while also securing the program for generations to come. The announcement came as Sanders and other senators received two million signatures from Americans opposed to Republican efforts to cut Social Security.

“Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation's history. Through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American,” Sanders said. “The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the future is to eliminate the cap on the payroll tax on all income above $250,000 so millionaires and billionaires pay the same share as everyone else.”

Sanders’ Social Security Expansion Act would strengthen Social Security by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share into Social Security.  Right now, the earnings of U.S. workers subject to the payroll tax are capped at $118,500. This means that someone making $11 million a year and another person making $118,500 a year pay the same amount into Social Security. Not the same rate, the same amount.

This legislation subjects all income over $250,000 to the Social Security payroll tax.  The Center for Economic Policy Research has estimated that subjecting earned income above $250,000 would only impact the top 1.5 percent of wage earners.

This bill will also subject unearned household income above $250,000 to the same 6.2% tax as applies to most earned income. The top one-tenth of one percent of Americans gets about half of all capital gains income.

Asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute more into Social Security, would not only extend the solvency of Social Security through 2060, it would also allow Social Security benefits to be expanded for millions of Americans.

Sanders continued, “At a time when over half of the American people have less than $10,000 in savings and senior poverty is increasing, we should not be talking about cutting Social Security benefits.  We should be talking about expanding benefits to make sure that every American can retire with dignity.”

Specifically, the Sanders’ bill would:

  • Increase Social Security benefits by about $65 a month for most recipients. 
  • Increase cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security recipients. 
  • Provide a minimum Social Security benefit to significantly reduce the senior poverty rate.

Today, Social Security has a $2.8 trillion surplus and will be able to pay all promised benefits until 2033, after which it will be able to pay around 75 percent of all promised benefits.  The Social Security Expansion Act would increase revenue and extend the solvency of Social Security to ensure all benefits could be paid for the next 45 years, past 2060.